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Passing the Buck in South Tampa

“This city is going to change more in ten years than it has in my lifetime.”

Call it “South Tampa Tuesday.”

As the Tampa municipal election calendar hit the official ‘two weeks away’ point, the day started out with the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce‘s Coffee with a Candidate series featuring Jane Castor and Mike Suarez from the mayoral race and John Dingfelder and Lee Lowry from City Council Districts 3 and 4, respectively.

Later, City Council candidates in Districts 4 and 6 descended on South Howard Avenue to meet with a business coalition. The theme at both — various iterations of transportation.

Castor and Suarez tackle affordable housing, transportation and small business” via Florida Politics — “This city is going to change more in ten years than it has in my lifetime,” Castor said naming off the “big three” issues to tackle.

Castor, much like all of the other candidates vying to replace Bob Buckhorn in City Hall, plans to utilize nearly $40 million in annual revenue generated by the new All For Transportation sales tax to shore up some of the city’s biggest challenges.

That includes repaving roads that, in some areas, are on an abysmal 75-year schedule and creating a comprehensive sidewalk plan. Castor’s sidewalk plan would begin at schools and branch out from there, she said.

“It’s also working with our county, state and federal agencies to make sure we’re bringing the funding in to complete the larger projects,” Castor said.

Those bigger projects include extending the TECO Line Streetcar that currently serves downtown and Ybor City north to Seminole Heights and utilizing the CSX tracks that run from downtown north to the University area. She’s also amenable to other transit solutions like the MacDill ferry to divert traffic associated with the Air Force Base off Bayshore Boulevard.

Suarez is running on his experience as a two-term City Council member and on neighborhood inclusion.

During the South Tampa Chamber event, Suarez made the case for small businesses, noting that he had started one himself — a small insurance agency.

Suarez said as mayor he would work with neighborhoods to ensure small businesses were able to thrive in their communities. He pivoted away from the concept of attracting new, large businesses to the city and instead focusing on growing existing ones.


South Tampa City Council Candidates address SoHo parking and noise” via Florida Politics — One of the toughest challenges facing both residents and businesses is parking. The hustle and bustle of the South Tampa dining experience and night life leaves drivers searching often aimlessly for parking. Those drivers often wind up parking on residential streets, taking up valuable space residents also use.

The candidates all agreed the parking issues should be remedied through a variety of transit and alternative transportation options.

Guido Maniscalco, the incumbent in District 6, said he hopes to use All For Transportation sales tax revenue, which will generate about $40 million a year for the city of Tampa, to expand the TECO Line Streetcar into North Hyde Park and potentially to Kennedy Boulevard and Howard Avenue.

Bill Carlson called for using All For Transportation revenue to build passenger rail along existing CSX tracks, which would include a SoHo station.

All five candidates agreed the city needs to work with businesses in the popular residential and entertainment district to expand sidewalks and build more crosswalks.

Tampa mail ballots coming in at a trickle” via Florida Politics — With less than one week to go before early voting starts in Tampa’s municipal election, ballots are only trickling in from voters who asked to receive them.

As of Monday, only 8,339 out of 57,345 ballots were returned. That’s just 12.5 percent of those requested. Total voter turnout in 2011 when Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made the runoff that year was 22 percent.

None have been returned since Friday.

The largest rate of return came on February 11 when 1,765 ballots were returned. That was a Monday.

The first ballots went out to voters on January 22 with most sent January. 29.

Voters can still request ballots. Over the past week nearly 300 more ballots have been sent, indicating voters are still requesting them.

LGBTA Democratic Caucus endorses Castor

Castor is the only openly gay candidate in the race. Though, the group is for the LGBT community and its allies and does support non-LGBT candidates who back civil rights and protections for their community, which all of the seven candidates have said they do.

The group voted after a forum last week with all of the candidates. Castor communicated ahead of that forum about a scheduling conflict and did not answer questions alongside her opponents, but was able to answer the same questions independently at the end of the meeting.

“Throughout her years of public service, Jane has proved herself to be a strong ally to the LGBTA community, and we know she will continue to be as Tampa’s next Mayor,” said Dave Cutler, President of Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

If elected, Castor would become one of only a handful of lesbian mayors of major U.S. cities.

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Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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